My husband and I both come from families that range from fairly well-traveled to extremely well-traveled. Both of our dads are private pilots, with my hubby’s dad flying full-time internationally for a major commercial airline. We have both been on tour with bands across the US, and we have also done a lot of random road trips and visiting family back and forth across the country. In fact, when we were dating, we were long distance and flew to see each other about once a month or so. Needless to say we are not strangers to toll booths and especially not to airports.
Zoelie’s first flight was when she was 2 months old, we flew to visit family for New Years. We had a scary experience on the plane before we took off that had to do with cabin pressure. I had intense pain in my ears and noticed everyone else in the cabin was also acting very uncomfortable, including the flight attendants. We obviously changed to a new plane, but I had never felt so afraid that my tiny little one could be hurting like I was. However, she slept peacefully in my arms before they let us off the plane and showed no sign of discomfort. I still think that was a miracle. After that experience, we made trips probably about once a month for a while. Allister also started flying early and has flown many more times than the average two year old.
Flying with little ones is always a challenge. Thankfully, the baby stage is really easy for the most part. (In comparison to the toddler stage.) You have to take so much extra STUFF with you, so it becomes a balancing act and on top of that there is travel anxiety, so you are always slightly rushing even if you have plenty of time. You never know how long security lines will be, how far you will have to walk to your gate. (I always get the flights at the very.end.of.the.terminal.) I have flown with my husband probably seven times, which in the grand scheme of things is practically never. I fly alone with kids as a general rule. Flying alone with kids requires a certain skill and expertise and I have definitely got it down to a science.
Here are some flying tips based on Penny’s first flight experience:
Packing before you leave is the first step. It requires your standard suitcase, but hopefully you pack for yourself as light as humanly possible so that baby can share the suitcase. If you aren’t a pro-packer, here are two tips. One, always pack your suitcase on a bed or couch. It allows the bottom of your suitcase expand so you can stuff more crap in it. Two, roll everything tightly! You will be amazed at how much more you can fit if you roll it! I don’t cloth diaper on trips. Actually, we are a cloth diaper sometimes family, we are not extremely dedicated (because I am the only one who handles the poop and I get tired of it.). However, cloth diapering on a trip usually requires a second suitcase and I don’t have the ability to sprout extra arms to carry said extra suitcase, so it’s sposie’s for us. I always stuff them in the outer pocket.
The diaper bag you will carry on the plane is mucho importante. Pack double the diapers you think you will need. And a plastic grocery bag or two for dirty diapers and dirty clothes. And three extra outfits at the very minimum. Maybe six. If you don’t, it is guaranteed that your kid will have a giant blowout poo on your lap in the plane (Penny did.) and you will wish you had listened to me. Bring a few snacks for yourself, and basically a pantry full of snacks if you have a baby that eats food. You also are going to either want to bring a water bottle (I love my lifefactory bottle) or buy a bottle of water at the airport. You want a lid because you aren’t going to be able to put your tray table down and get a lidless drink from the flight attendant. The logistics do not work. Pack your liquids in a baggy and put it in the top of your carry-on, pack your baby’s liquids somewhere easily reachable as well. and don’t forget your kid’s birth certificate ( if they are flying on your lap), some airlines are not very nice if you don’t have it and will make you purchase a seat. Unless of course you have a fabulous blog with a million stories about your child and you can pull it up as proof of age. (Xza learned this in Austin as well. )
We drove ourselves to the airport for our trip to Austin, which made it necessary to park in the “cheap” long term parking lot and take a shuttle to the airport. This takes up more time, and also requires skill. Those skills include arriving an extra half-hour early, and it is smart to park all the way at the front but the side closest to the shuttle bus exit, so that you don’t have to wait as the shuttle stops at each little station in the parking lot picking up people. If you are always late to the airport like me, and you have a baby who likes to continuously be moving, please take this advice. You won’t regret it.
You may be a babywearing extraordinaire, but I promise you want a stroller. Not for baby, but for helping you lug everything into the airport and across the vast parking lot sea to get on the shuttle. Do you use a bucket seat for your baby? We don’t, except for trips. One) Don’t want the Nextfit to get damaged by airport employees who throw things like they are TRYING to break them for a living. 2) Easier to carry and fits on stroller. Traveling for us looks like this: Baby wrapped on my chest. Diaper bag hanging on stroller handle, purse in car seat, car seat in stroller, pushing stroller with one hand and pulling suitcase with the other. After you drop off the suitcase and car seat at the check-in, You have baby on you, diaper bag and purse in stroller.
Don’t forget to run late. (This is a requirement for a truly successful trip anywhere.) Go through security. In line I always remove my liquids, my shoes, etc. I never wear anything to the airport with metal on it besides jeans (they won’t beep.) Beeping gives me anxiety. It is bad enough if you wear your child through security they swab your hands and they also test all your baby liquids. It takes forever. You also have to find a way to put all your stuff on the x-ray conveyor belt with one hand, including folding your stroller and lifting it up. If you’re lucky a nice person in line will help you, but it has happened more times than not that I have had to do it myself. I always feel like I deserve a trophy after successfully getting through security.
(Waiting in line with Xza in Austin at security with our scrumptious babies)
The next step is to head towards your gate. I go to the agent and get a stroller tag. Then I check the time. Most of the time flights start boarding 20-30 minutes before the departure time, so about 40 minutes before departure I fill up my water bottle, I use the bathroom, and change baby’s diaper. (Some planes don’t have changing tables so you always want to be prepared.)
Then you board. Fold up the stroller at the end of the Jetway. Find your seat (or any seat if you fly Southwest – we usually do.). Pray that baby doesn’t poop on your lap. Penny did. I changed her on my lap too – the grocery bags I packed came in handy, so did the extra outfits. I wait to nurse until we start really moving for takeoff, that way the 10-15 minutes it takes to get to cruising altitude goes by with her still nursing. She will either fall asleep or be super happy at that point with a full belly and ears that hopefully don’t hurt from the pressure.
(Penny post-outfit change.)
From then on, you just reverse everything you just did. Nurse on the way down. Get off the plane and unfold your stroller, head towards bag claim but first stop to fill your water again (nursing mamas have to stay hydrated!) use the bathroom and change a diaper again. Find your bags, your car seat and get the heck out of the airport. No one wants to be there.
Penny did great on her first flight besides the blowout and our trip was super successful. Take my advice next time you fly, and have a safe trip! 🙂 Babies, be good.